Humanly speaking, one of the most unlikely individuals to be touched by God and become a Christian is the son of Madalyn Murray O'Hair. The fact that Bill grew up in an aggressively atheistic home where he was forced to fight for his mother's causes made it seem unlikely that he would respond to God's initial aim urging him to a change of heart. His story is thus a beacon to anyone who feels beyond God's healing and forgiving touch.
William Murray was born in May 1946. For his eighth birthday, his father was invited to the celebration. It was the first and only time Bill saw his father. A tall, strongly built man with chiseled features, his father had come from a wealthy Catholic family of thirteen children. Before dinner he said a prayer, an unheard of thing in Madalyn Murray's household. After a tense dinner, as Mr. Murray was leaving, he bent down and said to Bill, "Good-bye, son. . . You're a fine boy," and kissed him. This was Bill's only memory of his father for he never saw or heard from him after that.
Even as a child Bill had to attend meetings in the basement of their house listening to his mother and her friends rant and rave about the evils of the United States because some people were wealthy. He heard his country called an enormous, fascist, slave, labor camp. The group believed that a dramatic Socialist revolution was needed to divest the rich of their wealth. Young Bill sat in the back row trying to stay awake as heated discussions, always seething with righteous indignation, continued far into the night. He feared his mother's anger if he should happen to fall asleep.
Madalyn's father, mother, and brother lived with her and Bill. Her father did not approve of the way Madalyn treated Bill and often violent arguments, with screaming and foul language, upset the household. Madalyn became so enraged that she threw plates at her father and even tried to kill him with a knife. Her brother wrenched the knife from her and saved his father's life.
One morning after an especially violent scene she shouted at her father, "I hope you drop dead today." Later in the morning her father and mother went to the supermarket. As they reached the check out counter, Mr. May had a massive heart attack and died immediately. When Madalyn received the news, her only comment was to ask, "What did you do with the stiff?"
In order to gain his mother's attention and approval Bill began working strenuously for the Socialist cause, setting up chairs and distributing leaflets. When Bill was fourteen, his mother decided that they should go to Russia and become citizens. They could not get immigration papers so they went to Paris in the hope that there they could get their papers. Madalyn was furious when they were turned down by the Russian Embassy and told to return to their own country and work for Communism there.
Returning from their trip to Europe, Madalyn took Bill to school to register. They were a little late and all the students were in their homerooms. As they walked down the hall, Madalyn noticed that students were standing with bowed heads saying the Our Father. She was enraged and demanded of the principal, "Why are they doing that? It's un-American and unconstitutional?" This was the beginning of her battle to get prayer and Bible reading out of the public schools.
As her suit was rejected in one court, she kept appealing to a higher court until finally she reached the Supreme Court. Bill was dragged from one court to the other with his mother as she pressed her case with increasing anger and zeal. The case received national publicity with front page stories in newspapers and articles in magazines. Bill was harassed, beaten up, and ridiculed by his fellow students. Every day his life was made miserable at school and even more miserable at home with the tantrums and rages of his mother and her constant involvement in conflict.
As the result of an unfortunate early marriage Bill experienced even greater domination and harassment from his mother. When the marriage broke up, Bill had no money and had to leave his little daughter with his mother while he moved from place to place looking for work. He usually had no trouble getting a job but often was fired in a short time because of turmoil stirred up by his mother.
After being out of work for some time he was hired by Universal Airways and was appointed director of operations by Tom Evans, the company's president. Bill became good friends with Bill Simms, the station director. Because he was being paid well he looked the other way and tried to ignore some of Tom's practices.
The commuter planes flown by Tom's company needed a modification to keep the cargo doors from opening and interfering with the propellers. Bill reported the problem and assumed that Tom had made the modifications. He discovered how mistaken he had been when his friend Bill Simms was flying from Houston to Gulfport with seven passengers aboard. The cargo door came open and the plane crashed, killing all on board.
Ironically, Bill came to a belief in God because of the evil he saw in his mother and in Tom Evans. He wrote:
One day while driving home from work the truth struck me. I thought, 'there has to be a God because there certainly is a devil. I have met him, talked to him, and touched him. He is the personification of evil. He is Tom Evans, and my mother, and others like them I have known.'
Bill and his wife Valerie had many arguments and often his deep anger with his mother would surface and almost overwhelm him. At such times, he took comfort in drink He realized he had a drinking problem, but struggled earnestly to overcome it for he had a great desire to help others by sharing what had happened to him. During this time he began going to various churches to learn more about Christ.
Just before Christmas in 1979 he read a book, Dear and Glorious Physician by Taylor Caldwell. The book had been on his shelf for months but he had never read it. He identified with the main character who had been angry with God since childhood but then his anger had turned to love as he searched for Christ.
A short time later, Bill had a dream where he saw an angel holding a sword. On the hilt of the sword were the words in Latin "In Hoc Signo Vince. " (By this symbol conquer.) The sword was pointing downward and the tip rested on an open Bible. Bill felt that God had reached out and touched him through this dream. He immediately went out and bought a Bible and began reading the Gospel according to Luke. He prayed that God would removed from him his desire for drink and his desire to smoke three packs of cigarettes a day.
When God answered his prayer he began praying that he would get over his intense hatred for his mother. He realized all the harm he and his mother had done to so many people by taking prayer out of the schools and his mother's other atheistic causes. Twenty years after the prayer case had begun, Bill apologized by writing an open letter to a newspaper in Austin asking forgiveness of the people for building the American Atheist Center in their city. He also sent a letter to Baltimore where the prayer case began. I quote this letter in its entirety as witness to the tremendous change in Bill.
This story began with a letter of defiance to the editor of this paper in the fall of 1960. It is my sincere hope that the story end with this letter of both apology and forgiveness.
First, I would like to apologize to the people of the City of Baltimore for whatever part I played in the removal of Bible reading and praying from the public schools of that city. I now realize the value of this great tradition and the importance it has played in the past in keeping America a moral and lawful country. I can now see the damage this removal has caused to our nation in the form of loss of faith and moral decline.
Being raised as an atheist in the home of Madalyn O'Hair, I was not aware of faith or even the existence of God. As I now look back over 33 years of life wasted without faith in God, I pray only that I can, with His help, right some of the wrong and evil I have caused through my lack of faith.
Our nation, our people, now face a trying time in this world of chaos. It is only with a return to our traditional values and our faith in God that we will be able to survive as a people. If it were within my personal power to help to return this nation to its rightful place by placing God back in the classroom, I would do so.
I would also like to publicly forgive those who assaulted me and destroyed my property during those years that the case of Murray vs. Curlett moved through the courts. I do this even as I know that a loving God has already forgiven them.
William J. Murray
Bill had an opportunity to make further amends when he was invited to testify before a senate committee debating the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court over prayer in the public schools. The publicity brought him many letters and phone calls from citizens concerned about the moral chaos of our nation.
In July 1980, Bill formed the William J. Murray Faith Foundation whose primary purpose is to present the gospel to people who have been deceived by the lies of atheistic-humanistic philosophy. In April 1982, Bill and several others delivered to the White House petitions signed by one million Americans asking that religious freedom be restored to the public schools.
Bill Murray had been indoctrinated with atheism and hatred for God and religion from his childhood. Ironically, God reached him through the very evil which surrounded him, helping him to respond and seek the very opposite of the evil--the goodness of God. As we reflect on the change in Bill's life, can we doubt that there is anyone beyond the scope of God's love?
FromMY LIFE WITHOUT GOD by William Murray